MONDAY, April 13 (HealthDay News) -- The military deployment of women, who currently account for 10 percent of the American forces posted in Afghanistan and Iraq, has a detrimental effect not only on their own health but also on the health of their adolescent children, according to a study presented at the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States' 114th Annual Meeting held in San Antonio in November 2008.
Mona P. Ternus, Ph.D., of the United States Air Force and George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., conducted a study of 77 military women with preadolescent and adolescent offspring, and looked at a range of themes related to the health and behavior of both the mothers and their children. Over 60 percent of the cohort had been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.
Deployment of military women led to a number of physical symptoms such as cough, headaches, chest pain, muscle aches and skin rashes, with severity of symptoms directly related to the length of time they were deployed, the study found. In turn, the extent of the adolescents' risk behaviors such as non-accidental physical injury, drug use, self-mutilation and attempted suicide, was significantly correlated to their mothers' symptoms during deployment, how long they were deployed for, and the extent of support they received, the author found.
"Health care providers can be sensitive to the life-changing experiences of deploying in wartime, maternal absence, and potential health or behavioral concerns when treating women veterans and their families," the author writes.